Loud­er Than Words

  • Review
By – February 22, 2021

Not­ed author, Kathy Kac­er, has exam­ined the Holo­caust from numer­ous angles and has pre­sent­ed its his­to­ry to young read­ers in a clear, engag­ing style. This book is part of her Heroes Quar­tet, a series of Holo­caust sto­ries fea­tur­ing indi­vid­u­als who exhib­it­ed exem­plary, coura­geous behavior.

Loud­er Than Words approach­es the top­ic from a slight­ly unusu­al per­spec­tive, that of a non-Jew­ish house­keep­er left to care for a fam­i­ly of young Jew­ish girls in 1941 Ukraine. Their father has died and their moth­er must work to sup­port the fam­i­ly. The moth­er lat­er dis­ap­pears, leav­ing the girls with no one but this warm, lov­ing house­keep­er to turn to for safe­ty and security.

The sto­ry is based on actu­al events. Nina Pukas, on whom the char­ac­ter of the house­keep­er is based, has been hon­ored by Yad Vashem as one of the Right­eous Among Nations.”

Nina shep­herds her young charges through ear­ly anti­se­mit­ic inci­dents as the world seems to change around them. Their school shuts its doors to Jew­ish stu­dents. Yel­low stars must be affixed to the girls’ cloth­ing. Pre­vi­ous­ly friend­ly neigh­bors start to show open hos­til­i­ty. Their house is set on fire and they real­ize the town fire truck will not arrive, leav­ing them homeless.

Nina’s lov­ing care con­trasts with the atti­tude shown by anoth­er non-Jew­ish char­ac­ter, an aunt by mar­riage who shows only cru­el­ty. With­out Nina’s warmth and con­cern, sur­vival would be impossible.

This is a pro­file in true, self­less courage, spot­light­ing a role mod­el from whom read­ers can learn and por­tray­ing a fam­i­ly of brave young girls with whom they can iden­ti­fy. It reminds read­ers that coura­geous, lov­ing, car­ing peo­ple, although few and far between in Holo­caust-era Europe, are wor­thy of our respect­ful mem­o­ry and of last­ing honor.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions